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The Vault: The rise and demise of the Louisville Galleria

The former Louisville mall was used to revitalize the heart of the city, bringing in visitors and residents for food, shopping and fun.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Through the decades, downtown Louisville has seen its fair share of ups and downs.

One of those highs, the opening of the Louisville Galleria. It was an attempt to revitalize the once bustling heart of the city.

“So after two years of a lot of talk and not a lot of action, it appears the Galleria is finally getting up off the ground. Construction is set to begin at the end of this October,” WHAS-TV reporter Chuck Olmstead said in the late 1970s.

Olmstead covered the creation of Louisville’s Galleria for years, taking trips to Canada and Minneapolis to explore the concept, sharing the 3D scale models and then the grand opening came in 1982.

Excited shoppers gathered outside the glass doors as an orchestra played inside the new mall.

The architectural marvel changed the look and feel of downtown Louisville.

It was a moment of hope as then Governor John Y. Brown Jr. cut the ribbon, putting Fourth Street in a glass capsule.

Colorful banners decorated the ceiling as shoppers filled every space inside the new retail center, visiting the department stores, small businesses, cafeterias and theaters.

Credit: WHAS-TV
Former Governor John Y. Brown Jr. (right, black suit) joined officials during the ribbon cutting celebrating the grand opening of the Louisville Galleria in 1982.

It cost more than $130 million to build with funding coming from the federal government and Oxford Investment.

The Galleria’s grand opening was celebrated with a grand gala.

A television special also featured what may have been one of the greatest musical creations of all time called “Look What We Can Do Louisville” by singer Hazel Miller. It was penned by Nancy Moser and Joe Brown to promote what the city had to offer. 

Credit: WHAS-TV
Hazel Miller sings "Look What We Can Do, Louisville" during a gala celebrating the grand opening of the Louisville Galleria in 1982.

Those efforts to rebuild Louisville’s once dynamic downtown didn’t last.

The Galleria fell on hard times in the early 2000s and when it was gone, Fourth Street became “live.”

Fourth Street Live first opened to the public in 2004, and since then, the space has held numerous businesses and restaurants, concerts and events.

The venue has seen its fair share of ups and downs.

Almost 20 years later, Fourth Street Live carries on the tradition of bringing Louisvillians downtown for eats and entertainment.

Credit: WHAS-TV
FILE | The exterior of Fourth Street Live in downtown Louisville.

However, the pandemic and protests put a further strain on a struggling downtown in 2020 and 2021.

Now, the Downtown Revitalization Team is working on a plan called “Downtown Re-imagination” in hopes of bringing Louisville’s heart back to life.

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